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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Doyle: Grow UW, expand health care

[media-credit name=’JEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photo’ align=’alignright’ width=’336′]StateofState_JS[/media-credit]After calling education and health care his top priorities, Gov. Jim Doyle urged legislators in his State of the State Address Tuesday also to improve Wisconsin's economy and environment this year.

Before members from every branch of state government, Doyle said education is an integral part of achieving any state goal. Specifically, he proposed investing in the University of Wisconsin to produce more engineers, scientists and nurses.

"We need more research and more support for innovation that will be the cornerstone of our success," Doyle said. "This will be a major undertaking for the University and for the state, but the benefits will be wide and far reaching."

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Doyle argued for increasing enrollment across five University of Wisconsin System schools, investing $2 to $8 million in job training programs at technical colleges and boosting financial aid. All of this, Doyle said, "is an investment in our economy."

"With investments in workers, a strong commitment to manufacturing, and by unleashing a new generation of entrepreneurs, we can win the global competition," Doyle added.

Through his budget scheduled for release in two weeks, Doyle will fund and create the Office of the Wisconsin Covenant, a program that promises high school students a college education if they adhere to a good behavior and an academic pledge.

"I don't want any high school kid to think college isn't for them, or that it's only for the rich," Doyle said. "I want every boy and girl to know … college is within your grasp."

Though UW students in the audience were sparse, Doyle introduced Badgers lineman Joe Thomas at the address as an example of success. Thomas' cheers trumped those of several of Doyle's proposals, but health care reform seemed to receive the Legislature's largest applause.

Outlining his BadgerCare program, Doyle encouraged legislators to expand health care coverage to more than 71,000 workers and lower costs for children, starting at $10 a month. Doyle said federal dollars would pay most of the program's cost, adding $60 million to the budget.

"As more of our fellow citizens have access to insurance, they'll spend more time with their family doctor and less time in the emergency room," Doyle said. "When someone has a major illness, it will be paid for by their insurance, not yours or mine."

Other health-related proposals also aimed to save dollars by investing dollars.

Doyle said providing resources for hospitals to use computer technology could greatly reduce medical errors and save billions of dollars.

The governor also reiterated his anti-smoking initiative, which proposes an additional $1.25 tax on every pack of cigarettes, a statewide smoking ban in public places and a new fund that would generate $30 million for anti-smoking efforts.

In addition, Doyle said he plans to budget $40 million for renewable energy from sources such as wind, water or the sun to reduce Wisconsin's environmental impact and oil dependence.

"With new technology and a commitment to renewable energy fuels, we can not only reduce the carbon emissions that cause global warming," Doyle said. "We can and will help this nation kick its addiction to foreign oil."

He said he hopes Wisconsin will double its conservation efforts next year and pull four university campuses off of the power grid in the next five years.

In an effort to improve family and childcare, Doyle announced the creation of a new Department of Children and Families. It will merge child welfare, child support, childcare services, and the W-2 program into a single agency.

The services are currently shared by the Department of Health and Family Services and the Department of Workforce Development. Doyle said the new department would reduce duplication and improve coordination.

Some legislative Republicans responded negatively to Doyle's requests.

"The governor's State of the State speech tonight revealed that he's not living in the State of Wisconsin, but in a state of denial," said state Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, in a statement. "Tonight the governor unveiled a long wish list of new programs and gave no details about how he plans to pay for them."

Fitzgerald said he is concerned Doyle will not be able to fit the new proposals into a budget already facing a $1.6 billion shortfall.

"We also cannot dig ourselves deeper into a budget hole by paying for new spending through segregated fund raids, using one-time cash for ongoing expenses or adding to the level of state borrowing," Fitzgerald added.

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